sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Okay, there was no dock, and there was no bay, but Otis Redding was on his mind, Image“wastin’ time” and “watching the tide roll away.” It was late evening, gathering dark, and like Otis the loneliness wouldn’t leave him alone. He sat at a window above the Pacific Ocean and watched a smooth wet sliver of sand reflect the last light. A sharp  spit of dry sand thrust darkly out into the smooth sand, accentuating the smooth lit surface around it. He watched the waves roll in over the sand, one after the other, six or seven churning lines visible at once, a new one appearing a hundred yards out as the last one flooded the sand. He focused on the sand around the spit, gleaming as each wave sucked back into the oncoming wave left it wet. Each wave had a different character, left a different pattern of shining sand. Powerful or less powerful, straight on or pushed by another wave from the side, followed quickly by the next wave or arriving only after a long pause, each wave altered the brilliant band of sand in its own way. He squinted to narrow his focus, seeing only the wet sand and the dark sand that split it. 340 degrees of light, 20 of darkness. Or was it 335 / 25? He tried to ban the numbers. He wanted to experience only the shifting form, as directly as possible, without abstraction. It was pure abstraction. The wet sand fanned out expansively into a late-coming wave or completely disappeared under the rush of a big wave. Each wave left a new pattern, a pattern that had never existed and that had always been there. Each new form was predictable on the basis of the interaction of complex forces: geology, hydrology, gravity, the almost full moon that had not yet appeared in the sky, the weather over the Philippines, the wake of the fishing boat whose light had just winked on, the shivering movement of fish, the flapping of a moth’s wings. Each new form was unique. As he tried to see only the gleaming fan of sand and the dark spit in each new variation, his mind slipped into speculations about art. Isn’t this the basis of all art? he thought. Form and variation. Isn’t this music and poetry and dance and painting stripped to the essence? Each wave a new drawing, each wave a new dance, each wave a new artist? He squinted again. He wanted to see only the dark spit and the gleaming sand. He wanted to see.

About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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